Saturday, March 21, 2009

Bonefishing in Cozumel

Jay and I typically find ourselves in the middle of adventure. I'd say first and foremost we are "dreamers", Jay more so than I but I'm always convinced that his crazy schemes are going to work so I jump on board and our once dreams of catching 5 lb. brookies in hidden lake usually end up in us being lost, 5 miles back in the woods hooking 5" brookies instead.

It's funny though, because I wouldn't trade it for anything. I think it's really misadventures that make live worth living, and in the end, when you have as many as we do you eventually strike it rich and do find that magical 5lb. brookie lake you were always looking for.

Bonefishing in Cozumel was definitely in the category of "misadventure", but it was verging on complete success. If you keep reading, and are planning to go to Cozumel anytime soon, I think this blog will be of some help to you.

It all started on our last trip to Cozumel. We had hired a guide who took us to some great spots, but with a guide there is always the constraint of time and a little lack of freedom to go do what you want to. In the end, our fishing day was too short, and we really didn't have the money to hire a guide everyday and thus satisfy our bonefishing urges (we were on a family vacation, so it wasn't like the purpose of the trip was only bonefishing, for some reason loved ones think you should hang with them once in a while too).

So, the wheels in our brain got turning about how we could just go bonefishing on our own and that led us to Christmas of 2008. Another trip to Cozumel was inevitable and so Jay and I took to google earth to scout out our game-plan. After an in depth study of the maps we decided that one could theoretically rent a jeep and drive to the north point (punta molas) and then make the 2 mile hike down the beach to access some of the lagoons that we had previously fished.

The basic plan was set, but as fate would have it the family vacation did not pan out for the spring, but a new plan did. The wife and I convinced Dad and Mom that we should take a trip on Michelle's spring break (she's a school teacher). So, I had to leave the master adventurer behind, but I decided I could at least run re-con work and have things scoped out better for the next time. It turned out my results were pretty good.

Dad was a little fearful of the local drug cartel (which is non-existent), so we didn't end up driving to the north point as I had hoped, but we did check out the road to the north point. We were met with this sign (see picture, click on the image to make it larger)
which roughly translates, 

"Property of the institute's state assets. 
Person who is caught in this area to be appropriated to the appropriate authorities." 

but luckily we met some local police who said we could travel the road if we had a 4-wheel drive vehicle. That statement, combined with the fact that the islands' motto is "yeah, is no problem" means you could find yourself in jail if you head up north, but most likely you just have to play "dumb american" and not worry about it too much.

Having my earlier attempts to the North end of the island thwarted, we resorted to hiring a guide for a morning who took us up to the Northern lagoons. The fishing wasn't all that spectacular to start. In the lagoons section we really didn't spot many fish. We ran into one decent area where about 5 or 6 random bonefish were on the move and in deeper water, so most of my casts were too little too late. I did hook this small Red Snapper that was entertaining (in all fairness, I love the idea of catching bonefish, but I'm pretty content to catch anything in saltwater since it's all so new to me).

Then we headed out to find some new areas to search for bones and this turned out to be a most fortunate event. We headed back south and our guide pulled up to the docking area for Isla de Passion (Passion Island). It turned out that this was a pretty sweet spot for bonefishing. Unlike the lagoons, which are kind of a muck/sand mixture, the Passion Island area is all white sand, and since you are fishing on the backside (inland side) you are protected from the wind and the waves. For the most part we were walking in ankle deep water and either fishing in the shallows or fishing just off a drop into about 4 feet of water.

After 5 minutes of walking slowly we came to an edge where there was a small school of feeding bonefish (about 5 of them) cruising the depths. Then, not long after, I headed around a point and came to a larger flat sand section and in a matter of 20 minutes had about 3 pods of 3-5 bonefish tailing in 8 inches of water. Much to my sadness, I regret not reading up on bonefishing techniques and patterns before the trip. I put some pretty perfect casts directly in their path, but never got a hook up.

All in all I got schooled on Passion Island, but I now know that it is a great spot with some real potential to spend a day walking the sand bars and mangrove areas. The other great thing is that most resorts offer a "Passion Island day trip" for about $45 which is much cheaper than a guide trip and allows you the freedom to spend as much time walking the flats as you want.

Tight lines,


  1. This was very helpful Jeff, thank you. Can you think of any other ways to access bonefish waters without having to pay a fishing guide?

  2. Sadly no. Never did try to drive to the north point and realistically, trying to hike a wilderness beach for 2 miles is probably more challenging than I am calculating. One thing I didn't mention though ... once you are north of the main city on Cozumel you are out of the "Natural Park" which means you can fish anywhere. There are decent "flats" that have just a lot of fish species. Never caught a bonefish, but you can wade and cast for hours. In the span of a few hours once, we caught a box fish, a small barracuda (like 8 inches) and some other oddball fish. It was good fun!